Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Why are Presidential Primary candidates pushing Climate Change policy? Is it because the foundation of our American culture is ignorance of history?

The foundation of American culture is ignorance of history. Consider...

When asked in 1972 about the influence of the French Revolution, the late Premier of the People's Republic of China Zhou Enlai is reputed to have said:''Too early to say."

It is the apocryphal example of the patient and far-sighted nature of the discourse in China, where cultural advances are surveyed in terms of millenniums and economic progress is evaluated in centuries. This contrasts to the discourse in the United States, where cultural changes are defined by decades and economic expectations are calculated in days.

Here is an interesting historical fact from Wikipedia:

    The 1924 Democratic National Convention, held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City from June 24 to July 9, 1924, was the longest continuously running convention in United States political history. It took a record 103 ballots to nominate a presidential candidate. It was the first major party national convention that saw the name of a woman, Lena Springs, placed in nomination for the office of Vice President. John W. Davis, a dark horse, eventually won the presidential nomination on the 103rd ballot, a compromise candidate following a protracted convention fight between distant front-runners William Gibbs McAdoo and Al Smith.
    Davis and his vice presidential running-mate, Charles W. Bryan of Nebraska, went on to be defeated by the Republican ticket of President Calvin Coolidge and Charles G. Dawes in the 1924 presidential election.
    A total of 58 candidates received votes over the 103 ballots, and the second ballot was the one where most candidates were voted for (20 in total).

Democrats and others look at the current almost two dozen candidates running in the Democratic Presidential Primaries and relate it back to the 2016 Republican situation. That is because people don't understand much of anything about the history of our political system, even what happened 3+ years ago.

The important thing to remember about the Democratic 2020 Presidential Primary system is that it will be nothing like the Republican system that produced Trump. Trump won because of winner-take-all delegate award rules. The Democrats for 2020 have set up proportional rules which likely will make it easier for candidates with dogged, but limited, support resulting in their appearance on second ballot at the Convention.

It may not happen that the Democrats will end up with a brokered convention, but it is a real likelihood. And because all the various obnoxious subcultures support particular candidates, all of whom but one must lose, the possibility of bitterness suppressing Democratic turnout for the November election is very real.

This isn't all that complex to explain, but cultural context is a loser for the United States and particularly for Democrats. Consider for a moment the controversy over debating Climate Change policy. Tom Perez, head of the Democratic National Committee, ruled out an official presidential primary debate centered on climate change. That angered the dumb and young. Which then stirred the candidates who assuredly will discuss their policy proposals on the subject not only in the debates but afterwards because they have to win the primaries.

In 1988 the when George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis, global warming was discussed for a whole one minute and 25 seconds:

Unfortunately, in 2019 the Democrats will feel compelled to say more...
  • without referencing what happened in the years immediately after the 1988 debate when the real opportunity to do something presented itself and 
  • without referencing the Republican alternative position which has already been mentioned publicly but formally will be rolled out in the near future to create fear about the Socialist Green New Deal among the electorate.
Which brings up the difficulty of discussing Climate Change in either a Chinese or American cultural context and, more particularly, across cultures.

Perhaps we should note that there is climate change and there is Climate Change. A capitonym is a word that changes its meaning when it is capitalized. In this case "climate change" refers to changes in Earth's climate system resulting in new weather patterns that last for at least a few decades, and maybe for millions of years. In terms of millions of years, in the Earth's distant past there were period such as the Cretaceous Thermal Maximum, the Permo-Carboniferous Glaciation, and Snowball Earth. During the time humans have been on the planet, there have been lesser periods called Bond event glaciations. The Earth survived all the past climate change periods though millions of species didn't.

But today we discuss "Climate Change" which actually refers to an Industrial Age climate change more properly known as global warming, the  long-term rise in the average temperature of the Earth's climate system, an aspect of climate change shown by temperature measurements and by multiple effects of the warming over the lands and in the seas. The discussion goes to species extinction and sometimes to the probability of the extinction of the human species, the species that is the cause of Climate Change.

Despite what you will see or hear from the Trump Administration, China has made some progress in the struggle against Climate Change in no small part because they do explore issues in an extended historical context - extended both back and forward in millennia. In 2018 Zhejiang province was recognized with a Champions of the Earth Award, the United Nation's highest environmental honor. As noted here in previous posts on China and environmental issues:
    One of the pioneers has been East China's Zhejiang province, where in 2005 Xi Jinping, then Zhejiang Party secretary, famously said: "Clear waters and green mountains are mountains of gold and silver." Putting the theory into practice, Zhejiang has pioneered an "eco-compensation" system, which enables regions to both preserve the environment and develop eco-friendly industries. - from "The five major development concepts" by Robert Lawrence Kuhn
Xi Jinping, of course, has been President of China since March 14, 2013. But in 2005 when he offered the environmental statement quoted above -  "Clear waters and green mountains are mountains of gold and silver" - he was far from pandering to the popular thinking. In the first decade of this century, climate change skepticism in China was worse than in the U.S. But today China is led by an environmentalist while we have Donald Trump.

In terms of addressing human behavioral effects on the climate, China has a long ways to go as does the United States, though the governmental leadership attitude is radically different. Every Chinese Climate Change (note the capital letters) policy is organized with specific goals over defined five year periods with long term objectives seen in terms of a century. This is, of course, not "the American way" - except perhaps in California which like Zhejiang is following a State government led path to achieve significant Climate Change goals over the next three decades.

As noted in this blog previously the Trump-led Republican climate change policy (note the lack of capital letters) assumes that as an adaptive society we Americans - all randomly, voluntarily, and profitably in the American Way - will take the steps necessary to adapt - we will reorganize, we will move to different places, and we will innovate through technology.

On Sunday, June 23, 2019, Vice-President Mike Pence reflected the Republican climate change view in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper:

    Tapper:But I want to ask you a question about Climate Change. The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, said in a January report on worldwide threats that the climate emergency is -- quote -- "likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress and social discontent." It is a priority for the DNI, Coats. The EPA this week, however, rolled back part of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, letting states set their own limit for coal power plants emissions. Do you believe think human-induced climate emergency is a threat to the United States?
    Pence:Well, what -- what I will tell you is that we will always follow the science on that in this administration.
    Tapper: The science says it is.
    Pence: But what -- but what we -- but what we won't do -- and the Clean Power Plan was all about that -- was hamstringing energy in this country, raising the cost of utility rates for working families across this country...
    Tapper:TAPPER: But is it a threat?
    Pence: ... while other nations like China and India absolutely do nothing or make illusory promises decades down the road to deal with it. You know, the truth of the matter is, with the advent of natural gas, with the natural gas explosion that is developing...
    Tapper: Yes.
    Pence: ... with clean coal technology, we're seeing -- we're seeing a significant reduction in carbon emissions all across this country.
    Tapper: Do you think it's a threat? Man-made climate emergency—is it a threat?
    Pence: I think the answer to that is going to be based upon the science.
    Tapper: Well, the science says yes. I'm asking you what you think.
    Pence: Well, there's many in the science that—
    Tapper: The science community in your own administration—at NOAA, at the DNI—they all say it's a threat. But you won't, for some reason.
    Pence: What the president has said—what we've said—is that we're not going to raise utility rates. Remember what President Obama said? He had his Climate Change plan, he said it's necessarily going to cause rates to skyrocket. And that would force us into these green technologies. You've got Democrats all running for president on a Green New Deal that would break this economy.

The difficulty in this exchange is Tapper believes there is a "human-induced climate emergency" that is "a threat to the United States." Pence is focused on immediate policy choices. As proposed in the Democratic Green New Deal, pursuant U.S. Government regulation America would be required to reorganize its economy to meet defined needs to reduce or adapt to the impacts of Climate Change.

In 2020 the Republicans are going to challenge the concept of "climate emergency" in terms of climate change versus Climate Change.

In 2014 Haley Barbour, then Republican National Committee chairman and former Mississippi governor, told the Republican Leadership Conference: “In a two party system, purity is the enemy of victory.” If you Google the two words liberty enemy you will get a multitude of results for "[something] is the enemy of liberty." You will not get results for "liberty is the enemy of [something]". It's pretty easy to make the Green New Deal the enemy of liberty for purposes of winning the election. Of course Barbour was talking about winning elections.

The challenge for Republicans will be to get American likely voters thinking about what they are willing to give up economically for what they describe as the "Socialist Green New Deal." The supporting numbers are relatively easy to find.

Consider the chart to the left from the Environmental Progress website article Electricity prices in California rose three times more in 2017 than they did in the rest of the United States. California's implementation of solar and wind energy rapid expansion has its costs and as usual, the costs hit those who least can afford them despite rate structure efforts.

Lest you think, based on recent polling showing more Americans are concerned about Climate Change, that it would be good for Democrats to put a lot of their election eggs in that basket, here's the message from the other side regarding just one policy issue:

"Committed urban progressives" must quit talking among themselves long enough to attempt to understand the implications of the map below...

...because although the majority in all states think Climate Change is real, if Republicans make enough voters believe that the Democratic Green New Deal will cause them immediate economic harm, not only might Donald Trump win reelection but the Democrats may lose the House.

This writer fears that by embracing potential solutions to Climate Change found in the Green New Deal, Democrats will defeat themselves. The fact that the map above is based on extensive 2018 polling offers some hope as subsequent wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes across the nation might be bringing the implications of Climate Change up close and personal for many voters before November 2020.

The phrase "The economy, stupid" was coined by James Carville as the campaign strategy for Bill Clinton's successful 1992 presidential campaign against President George H. W. Bush, the last time a sitting Republican President lost reelection. That is because the economy is more up close and personal for all voters than any other issue in any election not being held in a time of declared war.

Of course since the foundation of American culture is ignorance of history, the Democrats may blow it anyway by repeating the 1924 Democratic National Convention.

Oh, and by the way, meaningful Climate Change policy such as that found in California depends upon legislation which is adopted by the legislative branch. What we have in California was put in place by a Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, negotiating "energetically" with a Legislature that was a Democratic super-majority.

At the national level, the Democrats have virtually no chance to achieve that kind of majority, indeed almost no chance to get a majority in the U.S. Senate. So why are the various subcultures in the Democratic Party so intent on having the Presidential Primary candidates fall on the Climate Change sword???

Sunday, June 23, 2019

California hasn't built enough homes because the State's progressives have banned creating new cities

The State of California has a housing shortage. State officials, in response to well-meaning political pressure, are leaning heavily on officials of existing cities to permit the expansion of multiple family housing in single family dwelling areas. There is something terribly wrong.

California has always had growth periods. And yes, existing cities have responded by permitting the construction of new homes. But as can be seen in the chart to the right the fact is in heavy growth periods new cities were incorporated - until the past three decades.

What should happen in the next five years is that 30 cities should be incorporated and developed - cities in area and population the size of Rohnert Park - 7 sq mi, 40,000 people, each with 10,000 single family units, 5,000 multiple family units, and 2,000 mobile home units.

That would require the State of California to revise its myriad of laws and allocate funds to subsidize the process, perhaps using funds from existing surplus but mostly from issuing revenue bonds. The state would need to find and acquire 200-250 square miles of land in areas safe from the worst impacts of Climate Change and rezone it. The state would have to find contractors and employees for the contractors - currently in very short supply - to build in these new cities 510,000 housing units at a rate of 102,000 a year. And 1,200,000 people would need to relocate. It would also require...
  • finding water supplies, 
  • building utility service facilities,
  • building transportation infrastructure,
  • building schools,
  • creating parks,
...and much, much more.

If that is accomplished by the State of California in the next five years, and then repeated every five years thereafter in addition to new housing construction in existing cities, California will have enough affordable housing for all the people in 2050.

It would also require the "progressives" in California to acknowledge what we all know - you cannot have more people without altering the environment in what is viewed as negative ways.

However, an additional option beyond meeting current housing needs would be to continue to slow migration into California though that would likely require a slowing of immigration, not exactly a "progressive" point of view.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Can California and China lead a war on Climate Change Black Death to save wine production?

Fulfilling an agreement made in 2017, retired Governor Jerry Brown will soon become the California Director of the California-China Climate Policy Institute to be operated jointly by the University of California Berkeley and China’s Tsinghua University.

As noted here in the 2017 post  "Clear waters and green mountains are mountains of gold and silver." Seeking a Beautiful China and California together in harmony for our grandchildren, Jerry Brown met with Chinese officials. At the time we noted:

    Shortly before meeting with President Xi, Brown... signed an agreement providing that China and the Golden State will work together on cutting their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over time.
    The agreement builds on subnational pacts Brown signed with officials in Sichuan and Jiangsu provinces earlier this week.
    “California is the leading economic state in America and we are also the pioneering state on clean technology, cap and trade, electric vehicles and batteries, but we can’t do it alone,” Brown said before a Chinese delegation.
    "I have proposed that California will cut its greenhouse gases 40 per cent below 1990 levels and that we'll have 50 per cent of our electricity from renewables," Brown told President Xi Jinping in a 45-minute meeting.
    "To keep that goal, we need a very close partnership with China - with your businesses, with your provinces, with your universities," Brown said.

    We need to be seeking together in harmony a beautiful China and California with clear waters and green mountains for our grandchildren.

Which brings us to wine. No, the agreement does not specifically address wine grapes, an agricultural product strongly associated with California.

However, it's interesting how climate change will affect that which is of casual-but-real importance in the lives of most people. And wine production is an example of the myriad of potential impacts from Climate Change on human life, some of which are immediately life-threatening but most of which will be "way-of-life" ending.

In 2013 a study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a worldwide analysis of the impacts of climate change on wine production. It found that the area suitable for wine production will shrink by as much as 73% by 2050 in certain parts of the globe, with high potential for stress on rivers and other freshwater ecosystems as vineyards use water to cool grapes or irrigate to compensate for rising temperatures and declining rainfall. The data leads to maps like this:

The map indicates new areas to which wine grape production could be relocated assuming a ±2.5° C temperature increase. In the enlarged portion of the map to the left, one can see that a substantial area in California that has been used for growing wine grapes will not be suitable for that use. But there would be an expansion of areas suitable in other locations both in California and in states further north.

So this would seem to indicate that U.S. wine production would continue, but it would have to be relocated - meaning that wine growers and their employees would move. As implied by Republican spokesman Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the American democracy has already chosen to have our grandchildren...

...drinking wine from grapes growing alongside the moose of Yellowstone National Park or in prime panda habitat in China. That is because it is already too late to avoid the assumed average temperature increase of 2.5°. And, of course, the Republican Climate Change policy assumes that Americans will reorganize themselves and relocate.

It puts an American old west migration veneer over the Climate Change problems - we just continue with the "Manifest Destiny" myth as explained in the post The very-American delusion behind Trump's foreign policy: The Bold 19th Century and 21st Century Women Architect-Advocates of America's Manifest Destiny.

In the case of California, the data assumptions produce maps like the one on the left showing the levels of water supply sustainability difficulties in different regions.

The fallacy - the lie, really - is that the 2.5° assumption is not the likely outcome of the failure of Western "democratic" governments such as the U.S. to effectively intervene to stem the causes of climate change.

As noted here previously, "in 2018 in both the U.S. and China formal findings have been made that we have 'locked in warming' of 4°± Celsius most likely within 60 years." It could come as early as 2064.

This raises the obvious questions: Between now and the end of the century how many times are the wine growers going to have to buy acreages in a new location, plant grapes, wait three years for the first production and two more years for the aging process? Or do we need new maps which would tell us to move the vineyards to ...hmmm... where, Alaska?

And then, assuming we can move and reorganize to keep drinking the wine we like, does that mean Americans will continue to not take adequate steps to avoid a continuing change in climate in the next century?

While the example here is wine grapes, the truth is for any organized complex endeavor, relocation, reorganization, and innovation do not lend themselves to adapting to multiple changes due to environmental forces within relatively short time periods. And that applies to individuals and families.

And at some point, the number of people involved in relocations actually becomes a mass migration which we are already seeing not just in Africa or Micronesia, but also in Central America.

As the current generation of Americans begin to experience the impacts of climate change, there will still be an inclination to assume because "this level of flooding" or "having this many tornados" or whatever last happened over 50 or 100 years ago, the incidents will not occur in the near future when in fact they are likely to occur within 10 years. That is when rebuilding is foolish and Pompeo's relocation solution is the only choice.

Acting to limit climate change is another choice. But when "progressives" talk about a green "new deal", they forget that the original "New Deal" was politically difficult to implement until (and even then after) The Great Depression had impoverished 30% of Americans. And in the end, it wasn't the "New Deal" that restored American prosperity, it was World War II.

The Great Depression was a faceless inanimate enemy. And so is Climate Change except it is far slower moving. It is highly unlikely that California-China Climate Policy Institute can inspire a conservative, "not-really" democracy such as the United States to shift to a "war footing"  through a government reconfiguration of the national economy, all to battle  Climate Change a faceless inanimate, slow moving threat. Even the People's Republic of China will have problems with that.

So over the next decade pour yourself many glasses of your favorite wines from California (or China or Italy or France - look at that world map above). You may not be able to in the following decade. And while you are doing so, remember it is just a symbol of the "acceptable" losses coming soon, along with  climate change black death .

The 21st Century Climate Change Black Death is happening now.
                                                                                                          If you're new to this blog here's the link to the listing of the 30+ previous posts in the Blog regarding Climate Change and the Environment.

This post is a part of a series:  climate change black death surrounds us 

Monday, June 10, 2019

As Climate Change Black Death Surrounds Us
  U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explains the
  conservative "old deal" to address Climate Change

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking on behalf of what is Republican thinking, laid out policy regarding Climate Change.

In an interview while he was in Europe, Pompeo explained that the Paris Agreement was an "aspirational" document but otherwise worthless because its "enforcement mechanisms were near-nonexistent." He argued that it represented a “real burden … on the [U.S.] and its economy and its workers and ordinary people in places like Kansas that I come from.”

Instead, Pompeo explained that we Americans will...
  • responsively reorganize our society, 
  • relocate as needed, and
  • rely on future technological innovation 
...instead of developing governmental policy as suggested in House Resolution 109 - Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal and creating the bureaucracy needed to implement it.

Before becoming Secretary of State, Pompeo served as CIA Director for the Trump Administration leaving his seat representing Kansas House District 4 which he had held since January 2011. He was a member of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. In the 2010 Republican Primary when another Republican candidate began to gain on him, Koch Bros funding assured his victory.

Pompeo did not "come from" Kansas. He did not evolve from some rural experience in the Plains States. A native Californian who graduated from Los Amigos High School in Fountain Valley, Pompeo is a West Point graduate who served only 4+ years as an officer in the Army and is an attorney who received his JD degree in 1994 from Harvard.

In 1998, when he was 34, Pompeo came to Kansas with three West Point friends, Brian Bulatao (who at the time worked for Bain Capital and who was confirmed by the United States Senate as Under Secretary of State for Management on May 16, 2019), Ulrich Brechbuhl (who since May 3, 2018, has served as Counselor of the United States Department of State), and Michael Stradinger. In Wichita they acquired three aircraft-part manufacturers along with a fourth in St. Louis, Missouri. They obtain venture funding from Bain Capital (Mitt Romney was that company's first CEO), Koch Industries, and Cardinal Investment (founded by another West Point/Harvard graduate).

One other fact Pompeo offered about himself in a speech places in ideological context the importance of the statements he made about Climate Change policy.

Simply put, Pompeo is the face of an evolving American conservative activism that is blending Neoconservatism and Neoliberalism under what appears to be unfocused freewheeling President Donald Trump.

And, as mentioned by Pompeo, the core conservative Climate Change view is addressed the following policy statement:
  1. Yes, the climate is changing;
  2. Yes, a the changing climate likely will have impacts, perhaps some significant ones;
  3. No, we do not have an accurate prediction of what those impacts will be in the years 2025, 2050, 2100 or 2200;
  4. Individuals and businesses should recognize that over the next decades a need to adapt to changing climate conditions may arise requiring geographical relocation;
  5. Nations should recognize that over the next decades a need to adapt to changing climate conditions may arise requiring a responsive, evolutionary reorganization of society;
  6. Individuals, mostly through businesses as facilitated by free nations, will create technological advances which will allow for adaptation to and reductions in impacts from Climate Change;
  7. The United States Government in response to Climate Change at this time should not create complex economic and social policies, and the bureaucracies to implement them as suggested by the Democrats in H.R. 109, instead continue to rely upon the private sector and the states to address problems as they arise.
Since it is unlikely that the Democrats can get control of the U.S. Senate in the foreseeable future, it would appear that Pompeo's conservative policy will prevail into the next decade. And it would be a mistake to dismiss the policy statement.

Earlier this month, a Reuters report World's biggest firms foresee $1 trillion climate cost hit indicated that:

    More than 200 of the world’s largest listed companies forecast that climate change could cost them a combined total of almost $1 trillion, with much of the pain due in the next five years....
    The companies anticipated a total of $970 billion in extra costs due to factors including hotter temperatures, chaotic weather, and pricing of greenhouse gas emissions. About half of these costs were seen as “likely to virtually certain.”
    Many companies also saw a huge potential upside if the world can de-carbonize in time to avert the bleakest climate scenarios, which scientists see as an existential risk to industrial civilization.
    Fossil fuel companies who submitted responses to the study reported $140 billion of potential opportunities in the drive toward a low-carbon economy - more than five times the $25 billion value of the risks they identified...
    With climate action focused on limiting the burning of coal, oil and gas, CDP urged investors to question why fossil players seemed so confident of benefiting from an energy transition that would render their existing business models obsolete.

It might be tempting to minimize this news except that it is based on a study initiated by the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. At their request the Financial Stability Board (FSB) established the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) and its recommendations resulted in reporting from 6,937 companies (more information is available here).

And so as many of the Democratic candidates seeking to run for President in 2020 embrace the Green New Deal of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Donald Trump has a simple answer - individual American's and their businesses using their ingenuity will deal with Climate Change when and as needed. (The unsaid corollary is: and those who can't deal ...well... we already have too many people.)

Or Americans could choose to depend on the Democrat of their choice who says "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." The problem with that is even if Trump loses, the Senate stands in the way.

Meanwhile some of the states are taking serious action such as California as explained in Embracing Inclusive Capitalism Plus within The California Green & Gold Deal as Newsom leads.

The 21st Century Climate Change Black Death is happening now.
                                                                                                          If you're new to this blog here's the link to the listing of the 30+ previous posts in the Blog regarding Climate Change and the Environment.

This post is a part of a series:  climate change black death surrounds us 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Climate Change Black Death Is a Loser Issue
No, we're not Australia, but Democrats need to pay heed to what just happened in the Aussie election

Since the last post here in the  climate change black death surrounds us  on April 23, 2019, the May 18 Australian election results were announced.

Australia Election Results: Prime Minister Scott Morrison Seizes a Stunning Win according to the New York Times.

Stunning? For Australian's...
  • If you read conservative publications and talk to the unremarkable suburban voter next door, no.
  • If you are a pollster who again got it wrong, yes.
  • If you are a member of the center-left Labor Party (ALP) talking mostly to other members of the Labor Party or young environmentalists or anyone but someone who doesn't think like you, yes.
  • If you are a climate change advocate like the Australian woman, Nicky Ison, pictured on the left, yes.
In another article using "stun" also 'What have we misread?' Labor faithful in shock after stunning election defeat we read:

    This was the climate change election, wasn’t it? This was about generational change. This was the election which would usher in a new active purpose for government.
    None of that happened, and understanding why will take weeks to work out. For the Labor faithful, the first emotions were raw. “What happened?” asked Tiani Rutledge-Wilkes, an interior designer, who said she had no idea what had gone wrong. She thought the ALP would win, and had her nails painted “Labor red” for the occasion. “What have we misread?”
    “It’s just not the polls [that got it wrong] but all the experts.”

Indeed just two weeks prior to the election the headline said Climate change takes centre stage in Australia's election explaining:

    As political leaders travel across Australia to deliver their election talking points in farms, factories and sports fields, they are criss-crossing a country in the grip of a rolling climate emergency.
    In the year leading up to the election on 18 May, huge swathes of eastern Australia have endured their worst droughts in a century. There have been apocalyptic scenes along the Murray Darling river system in which up to 1 million fish have died. In Queensland, floods have wiped out half a million cattle and bushfires have burned close to pristine rainforests. In the usually cool southern state of Tasmania more bushfires have raged across 190,000 hectares of land and devastated old-growth forests.
    Last year was Australia’s hottest year on record and as winter begins many of the country’s major cities are staring down the barrel of water restrictions with Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin and Brisbane all facing the prospect of dams at just 50% capacity.
    But on the campaign trail, through warming cities, blackened bush and scorched outback, the two contenders for prime minister are trumpeting starkly different messages about what, if anything, should be done to address the crisis.
    The prime minister, Scott Morrison, represents the ruling conservative Liberal party. The slogan-loving former head of Tourism Australia came to power after toppling his more moderate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, in 2018.
    Morrison’s stance on climate change can be summed up by an address to parliament in 2017 while brandishing a lump of coal. In a speech supporting fossil fuels, he goaded the opposition: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt you. It’s coal.”
    The idea that many in Morrison’s party consider climate change and its effects to be something to be laughed at is not hyperbole from the left. In 2015, the former prime minister Tony Abbott – who once called climate change “crap” – was caught on camera laughing at a joke about rising sea levels in the Pacific.

Another article explained: "It was billed as the climate change election, and the climate lost." How exactly did Climate Change lose? Let's begin with Ms. Ison, who based on any information you can Google is a smart, energetic, focused advocate for Climate Change reduction policy who has been writing in the Australian edition of The Guardian. On May 2, she shared in After Extinction Rebellion, Australian politicians are on notice – change is coming her views that that the ALP policy position was unacceptable:

    This is the challenge for climate campaigns and movements in countries like Australia. How do we shift from where we currently stand to where the ALP’s climate policies are considered the bare minimum of what is needed?

When the choice for voters in a country experiencing major impacts of Climate Change is between a coal advocate and the more "progressive" choice of the Labor Party, the losing progressives change leaders and the new one creates a headline New Labor leader Anthony Albanese calls for end to climate wars.

As noted in a previous post political parties are only winners and losers, and losers can't implement policy ideas, even good ones. Democrats in the U.S. in 2020 must, of course, embrace socialism and the Green New Deal. No point in not being a loser. Or maybe Trump will be seen as more of a loser, who knows?

Nonetheless there is some irony in this headline this week Human civilization faces "existential risk" by 2050 according to new Australian climate change report. The report titled Existential climate-related security risk: A scenario approach, which you can download here, includes a forward by the former chief of the Australian Defense Force Admiral Chris Barrie. The report's authors offer this overview of its contents:
  • Analysis of climate-related security threats depends significantly on understanding the strengths and limitations of climate science projections. Much scientific knowledge produced for climate policy-making is conservative and reticent.
  • Climate change now represents a near- to mid-term existential threat to human civilisation. A new approach to climate-related security risk-management is thus required, giving particular attention to the high-end and difficult-to-quantify “fat-tail” possibilities.
  • This may be most effectively explored by scenario analysis. A 2050 scenario is outlined in which accelerating climate- change impacts pose large negative consequences to humanity which might not be undone for centuries.
  • To reduce such risks and to sustain human civilisation, it is essential to build a zeroemissions industrial system very quickly. This requires the global mobilisation of resources on an emergency basis, akin to a wartime level of response.
And the Report offers the following policy recommendations:
  • Recognise the limitations of policy-relevant climate change research which may exhibit scientific reticence.
  • Adopt a scenario approach giving specific attention to high-end warming possibilities in understanding medium-range (mid-century) climate and security risks, particularly because of the existential implications.
  • Give analytical focus to the role of near-term action as a determinant in preventing planetary and human systems reaching a “point of no return” by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.
  • Urgently examine the role that the national security sector can play in providing leadership and capacity for a near-term, society-wide, emergency mobilisation of labour and resources, of a scale unprecedented in peacetime, to build a zero-emissions industrial system and draw down carbon to protect human civilisation.
The idea of Climate Change being an existential threat is hardly news to this writer who has noted that both the U.S.and China have formally acknowledged that severe Climate Change is inevitable during this Century and that it will have catastrophic results in many locations. The U.S. military is officially and actively focused on dealing future catastrophic impacts of Climate Change on U.S. military facilities.

Nonetheless, while the United States is not Australia, political acknowledgement of the need to address Climate Change both by reducing carbon emissions and begining the adaptation process will not be treated favorably by the voters in about 30 of the 50 states.

The 21st Century Climate Change Black Death is happening now.
                                                                                                          If you're new to this blog here's the link to the listing of the 30+ previous posts in the Blog regarding Climate Change and the Environment.

This post is a part of a series:  climate change black death surrounds us 

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Rare Earth Elements: Is a struggling California mine going to save our near-term economic future

Many American companies are holding their breath to see what China is going to do with its, and California's, rare earth elements (REE's). But despite the fact that the Trump Administration in 2017 picked up the pieces of a Democratic failure from 2010, you probably had never heard of REE's even a year ago.

The American news media makes it difficult to follow the real activity of the Trump Administration. It is as if they are parents noticing that their 7-year-old kid used bad words, called other kids names, and yelled a lot without noticing the kid was quietly killing cats to see what happens when they die. And liberals love the coverage. For instance....

On December 20, 2017, liberal media darling NPR ran a story From 'Covfefe' To Slamming CNN: Trump's Year In Tweets. They did not report on that day, or any future day, that the President signed Executive Order 13817 which directed his Administration to develop “'a strategy to reduce the Nation’s reliance on critical minerals' that are largely imported" because of the graph to the right.

The Executive Order was among the important actions taken by Trump in his 11th month in office to prepare for the Trade War with China he would initiate a month later by placing tariffs on solar panels and washing machines. (Oh yeah, and I think that month he called somebody a name in a tweet which got extensive news coverage.)

As explained here during Trump's first month in office in a February 16, 2017, post Why you should fear Trumpism's Steve Bannon: war with China within 8 years and other reasons militant hostility towards China was being advocated from the beginning within Trump's campaign organization.

As explained two years later in a post The U.S. "China threat" disinformation industry. It's ramping up agitation for a war with China in East Asia which America cannot possibly win! "

    One change is recent. In December 2017 and January 2018, the Trump Administration put forth a National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy that shifted from a focus on terrorism to a focus on China-as-a-hostile-nation. Not surprisingly, key national security positions  are being filled with China hawks from a variety of viewpoints - Neoliberals and Neoconservatives, as well as economic nationalists, all of whom for their own ideological reasons want an aggressive policy toward China.

If you have followed the escalation since that post on February 16, 2017, you know that most recently China indicated it would stop exporting rare earth element (REE) minerals to the U.S. in response to the U.S. hostility. Which brings us to an article published this week U.S. to Ensure Rare-Earth Supply Amid Trade War With China which discusses the newly released Commerce Department Report A Federal Strategy to Ensure Secure and Reliable Supplies of Critical Minerals.

China had given policy-makers reason to be concerned about our dependency on rare earth mineral imports.  Rare earth minerals are used in magnets, catalysts, alloys, glasses,electronics, hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, hard disc drives, portable electronics, microphones, speakers, petroleum refining, diesel additives, alloy making, fuel cells, Nickel-metal hydride batteries, LCD and plasma screens, fiber optics, lasers, medical imaging, tracers in medical applications, fertilizers, water treatment, REE-enriched fertilizers, and feed additives for livestock.

Since 2007, China has restricted exports of REEs and imposed export tariffs, both to conserve resources and to give preference to Chinese manufacturers.  In 2009, China supplied more than 96% of the world's REEs. In 2010 as noted in the Popular Science article Shortage of Rare Earth Minerals May Cripple U.S. High-Tech, Scientists Warn Congress:

    Experts testified that China's state-owned mines had set artificially low prices for the rare earth market, and that Chinese manufacturers had also forced most U.S. rare earth and permanent magnet manufacturers out of business. Rare earth magnets represent a major component in Toyota's Prius hybrid and other clean tech.
On September 22, 2010, China quietly enacted a ban on exports of rare earths to Japan, a move suspected to be in retaliation for the Japanese arrest of a Chinese trawler captain in a territorial dispute.

As Japan and China were (and are) the only sources for rare-earth magnetic material used in the U.S., the Democrat-controlled House Committee on Science and Technology scheduled on September 23, 2010, the review of a detailed bill, a bill which ultimately died in committee in the Democrat-controlled Senate, to subsidize the revival of the American rare-earths industry, including the reopening of the Mountain Pass mine.

Almost all Americans, including most Californians, are unaware that the only producing rare earth mine in the United States is the Mountain Pass Rare Earth Mine, an open-pit mine of rare-earth elements on the south flank of the Clark Mountain Range, just north of the unincorporated community of Mountain Pass, California.

The Mountain Pass deposit was discovered in 1949 by a uranium prospector who noticed anomalously high radioactivity. The Molybdenum Corporation of America bought the mining claims, and began small-scale production in 1952.

Production expanded greatly in the 1960s, to supply demand for europium used in color television screens. Between 1965 and 1995, the mine supplied most of the worldwide rare-earth metals consumption (see graph).

In August 2015, it was reported that the mine was to be shut down following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by its owner Molycorp which had outstanding bonds in the amount of $US 1.4 billion. A year later Molycorp Inc. emerged from bankruptcy as Neo Performance Materials, leaving behind the mine as Molycorp Minerals LLC in its own separate Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Affiliates of two U.S. investment fund advisors, JHL Capital Group LLC and QVT Financial LP plus a Chinese distributor of RRE's Shenghe Resources Holding Co., a non-voting 10% shareholder which provides technical advice and acts as the main distributor of MP’s products for processing in China, acquired Mountain Pass in July 2017 with the goal of reviving America’s rare earth industry.

Operating under the name MP Materials mining operations resumed in January 2018. According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) article Caught between Trump and its biggest market, America’s sole rare earths mine is an unusual victim in the US-China trade war: "The operator of the Mountain Pass mine in California said it will kick-start its own processing operation by the end of 2020, after China last week more than doubled an import duty on concentrates to 25 per cent effective June 1." (Click on the image below to view the mine website.)

Getting this up and running as fast as possible seems like a no-brainer  But complex economic and environmental issues control the agenda as mentioned in the SXMP article. Even the Trump Administration had to forego simplicity as the U.S. has not retaliated against the Chinese tariffs on REE's even though Trump wanted to impose a 10 per cent tariff in July.

The mine has a history of environmental issues.  It was acquired by Union Oil (Unocal) in 1977.  A few years later problems became evident, per Wikipedia:

    In the 1980s, the company began piping wastewater up to 14 miles to evaporation ponds on or near Ivanpah Dry Lake, east of Interstate 15 near Nevada. This pipeline repeatedly ruptured during cleaning operations to remove mineral deposits called scale. The scale is radioactive because of the presence of thorium and radium, which occur naturally in the rare-earth ore. A federal investigation later found that some 60 spills—some unreported—occurred between 1984 and 1998, when the pipeline and chemical processing at the mine were shut down. In all, about 600,000 gallons of radioactive and other hazardous waste flowed onto the desert floor, according to federal authorities. By the end of the 1990s, Unocal was served with a cleanup order and a San Bernardino County district attorney's lawsuit. The company paid more than $1.4 million in fines and settlements. After preparing a cleanup plan and completing an extensive environmental study, Unocal in 2004 won approval of a county permit that allowed the mine to operate for another 30 years. The mine also passed a key county inspection in 2007.

The ultimate problem facing the United States and the Trump Administration is that whether American companies pay tariffs on imports of REE"s and products containing REE's, or ultimately use products derived from American REE's. Either way costs are going to rise on things Americans use.

“This trade war, and the fact that the US has not retaliated against the unilateral tariff on our products highlights [America’s] reliance on Chinese rare earth products supply,” Las Vegas-based MP Material’s chief executive, Michael Rosenthal, told the South China Morning Post (link above). “It focuses American manufacturers’ and government officials’ attention back on what we are trying to do and can do.”

The State of California and local communities can benefit from the success of the Mountain Pass Mine as can be seen from their employment site:

You should hope they find the employees they need in this low unemployment time  and, somehow, find a Congressional majority that can assist because there is something you'll need next year that depends on one of the REE's.

In the meantime, we need to ignore Trump's tweets as they do not constitute any lawful directive or official policy - just keep watching for stories about dead cats. One dead Chinese cat could mean a lot of dead American soldiers, sailors and pilots.